Posts Tagged ‘Bali tourism’

Bali’s Ubud Writers Festival goes hybrid

October 8, 2021

Ubud Writers and Readers Festival founder and director Janet DeNeefe, shown here in 2019, says Covid has forced the festival to be “braver” and “think outside the box.” (Photo credit: Vifick Bolang)

With travelers entering Indonesia still requiring quarantine, Bali’s Ubud Writers and Readers Festival launched in hybrid form Thursday. With Covid easing in Bali, some events, running through October 17, are taking place live on the island, with some in Perth due to the difficulties traveling to and from key festival market Australia, some prerecorded and all available online and on demand, making content available globally. Festival founder and director Janet DeNeefe says the hybrid format presents new challenges after last year’s completely online event, but it doesn’t change the mission.

“We have a purpose,” DeNeefe says. “The writers and readers festival began after the first Bali bombings [of 2002]. It was an attempt to re-flower the community, to uplift the people, to boost the economy, to bring a bit of inspiration, create a platform for dialogue.

“That was how we began. And now more than ever we have to continue because this is what people need right now, some sort of event you can see. With the semi lock-down, there’s not a lot of action on the streets here. So, our job is to create the best face to face event as we can, given the situation. So we’ve become a hybrid festival.”

While it may be easier to get top writers to commit to a remote interview rather than spend hours traveling to appear in person, recruiting has become more difficult in some ways, DeNeefe says. “A good deal of the festival’s attraction is the sheer fact that it’s in Ubud, so you’re in this beautiful location with really warm, friendly, hospitable people, great food, great weather. We have so many wonderful aspects of Ubud that attract people, so suddenly when you’re online, you lose the very magic of the festival in a way.”

The 2021 Ubud Writers and Readers Festival welcomes live audiences after going completely online last year. (Photo credit: Anggara Mahendra)

A restaurant owner, chef and cookbook author before she began the literary festival – later adding a food festival – DeNeefe hopes to restore some magic by tapping into Bali’s innate creativity with an artisans market running during the festival’s two weekends. Many vendors are hospitality industry workers who’ve found new pursuits with Bali tourism largely halted for the past 18 months.

“It’s all a learning experience. Some of the aspects that we have learned about the online festival, we will take into this festival. We’re slowly morphing into a modern era,” DeNeefe says. “Of course it has its challenges, but it’s made us think outside the box and be a little bit braver perhaps as we’re venturing into a whole new territory.”

Former US diplomat and broadcast news producer Muhammad Cohen is a columnist for ICE 365, a contributor to Forbes and Inside Asian Gaming, columnist/correspondent for Asia Times, and author of Hong Kong On Air, a novel set in his adopted hometown during the 1997 handover about television news, love, betrayal, high finance, and cheap lingerie. See his bio, online archive and more at www.muhammadcohen.com; follow him on Facebook and Twitter @MuhammadCohen.

Bali Ubud festivals go virtual

October 28, 2020

With Covid-19 shutting down international travel, Bali’s annual Ubud Writers Festival and Ubud Food Festival have moved online. Kembali – “come back” in Indonesian – begins Thursday, October 29 and runs through November 8 with an all-star cast of Indonesian and international luminaries in each field and most disciplines in between. The festival preview call, featuring founder Janet DeNeefe and several speakers, gives a taste of what’s ahead.

Going virtual means that sessions with the likes of David Byrne, Jonathan Safran Foer, William Dalrymple, and preview call star Bandana Tewari will be available on demand for a month from their release time. So no matter where you are, the festival is on local time and can follow your schedule.

Totally globalized native New Yorker and former broadcast news producer Muhammad Cohen is editor at large for Inside Asian Gaming, a contributor to Forbes, columnist/correspondent for Asia Times, and author of Hong Kong On Air, a novel set in his adopted hometown during the 1997 handover about television news, love, betrayal, high finance, and cheap lingerie. See his bio, online archive and more at www.muhammadcohen.com; follow him on Facebook and Twitter @MuhammadCohen.

Bali helps Anuradha Roy pen pan-Hindu parable

December 14, 2018

On her first visit to the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival, Indian novelist Anuradha Roy discovered Bali’s expatriate painter laureate Walter Spies. This year Roy returned to Ubud with All the Lives We Never Lived, a parable for modern India featuring Spies and Nobel Prize winning poet Rabindranath Tagore as key characters.

Totally globalized native New Yorker and former broadcast news producer Muhammad Cohen is a blogger for Forbes, editor at large for Inside Asian Gaming and author of Hong Kong On Air, a novel set in his adopted hometown during the 1997 handover about television news, love, betrayal, high finance, and cheap lingerie. See his bio, online archive and more at www.muhammadcohen.com; follow him on Facebook and Twitter @MuhammadCohen.

Bali finds a way without Chinese tourists

January 1, 2018

Mainland China visitors represented one in four international arrivals to Bali through October. But the Mount Agung volcano led to a suspension of Chinese airline flights during the December holiday season. Tourism stakeholders on the Indonesian island are managing to cope, but at a price.

Totally globalized native New Yorker and former broadcast news producer Muhammad Cohen is a blogger for Forbes, editor at large for Inside Asian Gaming and author of Hong Kong On Air, a novel set in his adopted hometown during the 1997 handover about television news, love, betrayal, high finance, and cheap lingerie. See his bio, online archive and more at www.muhammadcohen.com; follow him on Facebook and Twitter @MuhammadCohen.

Tennis bows out in Bali

November 2, 2011

The last WTA tournament of 2011 is also the finale for women’s pro tennis in Bali. The season-ending Commonwealth Bank Tournament of Champions, successor to the Wismilak International that made its Bali debut in 2001, moves to Sofia, Bulgaria, next year under new sponsorship.

As reported in Asia Times, the Bali tournament may have been a victim of its own success as it failed to find local stakeholder support. Tournament director Kevin Livesey hopes to bring a new event to Bali and says that building grassroots support will be a top priority if he succeeds.

Meanwhile, enjoy this year’s finale. Action gets underway Thursday, 5.30pm local time with what could be biggest slugfest of the tournament, world number 16 Peng Shuai meeting former top fiver Nadia Petrova. The nightcap matches defending champion Ana Ivanovic against Roberta Vinci, winner of three tournaments this season. Friday at 5.30pm, world number nine Marian Bartoli, Bali runner-up in 2009, faces Anabel Medina Garrigues, then Bali stalwart Daniela Hantuchova battles hard serving Sabine Lisicki. Each day’s winners meet in Saturday’s semifinals, with victors meeting in the final Sunday

If you’re in the neighborhood, come on down to the Bali International Convention Center at the Westin in Nusa Dua or watch on StarSports. Otherwise, follow along on the tournament website. Just don’t think about November in Bulgaria next year.

Totally globalized native New Yorker and former broadcast news producer Muhammad Cohen is author of Hong Kong On Air, a novel set in his adopted hometown during the 1997 handover about television news, love, betrayal, financial crisis, and cheap lingerie. See his biography, online archive and more at www.muhammadcohen.com.

Big screen Bali box office boffo

August 18, 2010

The movie version of Eat, Pray, Love grossed US$24.7 million through its first weekend. Whether or not the film keeps up the pace, it’s expected to boost tourism in Bali, one of three destinations featured in Elizabeth Gilbert’s 2006 best seller that I first encountered on a website presenting “100 books to die before you read.” Even before the movie’s release Eat, Pray, Love tourism in Bali has plumped the Indonesian resort island’s record arrival numbers.

“Ubud is definitely attracting more EPL readers, which really like turning the volume up to 11 as Ubud already attracted the kinds of people who seem to most relate to the book –women, but not all women, who relate to Gilbert because they like how she decides to turn inwards and make everything about herself, about self-awareness, about self-actualization,” travel writer Ryan Ver Berkmoes, who first came to Bali in 1993, says.

“It’s easy to stereotype the EPL readers as middle-aged horny women hoping to meet a man in Ubud, but that’s not fair. I have met women in Ubud who simply felt inspired by the book to leave the US for the first time and travel half-way around the world to Bali to have an adventure even as their stodgy friends and relatives at home questioned their sanity.”

As reported in Asia Times, many in Ubud are concerned that the explosion in tourism and influx of expatriates is changing the character of what was once a traditional village considered the nexus of Bali’s varied arts. “What worries me is how dependent Ubud’s economy is on tourism, which is a notoriously fragile industry,” author of the novel drawn from Balinese folklore The Painted Word Diana Darling, married into a large Ubud family, says. “There’s almost nothing else happening here. On Ubud’s main streets there are no services, shops, or eating places for local people. Aside from a few temples, the only thing at the center of Ubud for local people is the market, and there’s talk of moving that out of town so the market can be devoted entirely to souvenirs. Nobody seems to have any ideas for any other future.”

Some wonder if Bali is reaching a tipping point, when the island loses its cultural identity and becomes a tourist theme park. “People have been asking that since Dutch tourists drove around Sanur looking for topless women,” Ver Berkmoes, writing guidebooks on Bali since 2004, notes. “The fact is, once you get away from the south – and now Ubud – Bali is Bali with the changes that come with being in the 21st century. There are broad swaths of the island where if you double the number of tourists it will mean two people a day will turn up instead of one. I think it is a real concern for the future in that the island is finite in size but so far Bali overall seems adept at absorbing the masses.”

Regardless of how EPL turns out, the Bali epic may have a happy ending.

Totally globalized native New Yorker and former broadcast news producer Muhammad Cohen is author of Hong Kong On Air, a novel set in his adopted hometown during the 1997 handover about television news, love, betrayal, financial crisis, and cheap lingerie.


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